Story Spinner

static1.squarespace.com

The longer I live, the more it’s become apparent that stories have such a tremendous influence on my life.  My market value is a measurable reflection of my ability to spin tales — both the ones I recite internally to keep me motivated, and the ones I share externally to inspire others.

We no longer sit around the campfire and share mythological lore, but the thirst for stories still drives our brains and our passions.  Stories of the Olympics inspire us.  Tales of fantastic work success impress us.  News of presidential candidate faux pas influence our resolve to vote and for whom. Our life experiences, values, and attitudes combine to develop stories that create our brand in the minds of our friends and associates.

We can select the most inspiring and positive stories about ourselves to create a halo around our brand, or even to alter it over time.  This process is natural – we all know our stories as living and evolving entities which gain life even outside our own.  We also know that there are negative stories we can share about ourselves — selectively, with the people we trust most…or late at night inside our own dreams.

We are always the hero in our own stories, although sometimes we can be the comic villain or the misunderstood icon.  When sharing your story with others, it’s the delivery that counts.

 

Advertisements

Emotions High

woman-president

There’s an impatience brewing in many of my female friends.  In me.  I don’t know if it’s borne of being 40-something and mid-career and mid-life when we’re sick of all the rules.  Perhaps it’s because there’s finally a credible female candidate for President — not vice-President, or assistant anything.  President.  Or perhaps it’s just cool to be a feminist once again…maybe we’re only a couple of steps away from bringing back bra burning and sit-ins.

Even if I can’t diagnose the cause, I can observe the symptoms.  I see so many articles and posts by women who are questioning the status quo.  One article I read today proclaimed:  ‘”Girls can do anything!” got translated somewhere along the line into “Women must do everything.”’ I see so many women railing against this proclamation.

It appears to be a time of conscious dissonance, when women are pushing back against expectations and the status quo.  I find myself doing it too, although I reject the term “feminist.”  I love men too.  I merely want an equal seat at the table, and I’m confounded by the nuances of our everyday life that keep me from realizing my equality.

I choose not to be angry; I choose to change the status quo.  I also wear pantsuits and cherish the quiet strength of a job well-done and relationships nurtured.  I am impatient but not impractical.  And I’m with her.

A Little Love, a Little Less Go-Go

hqdefault

I’ve been driving myself pretty hard…kind of like a track car that doesn’t know how to operate outside the redline.  All my handling feels sloppy at a slower pace, and I miss the adrenaline.  I realized yesterday afternoon that I really hadn’t broken my racing patterns — I was pursuing social engagements and job search with the same reckless focus as I’d devoted to my work.

I’ve resolved to slow down a little, and to allow more space without social or professional commitments over the next couple of weeks.  I need time without people and without the demands of interaction to relax, to heal myself from the frenetic pace of life, and to hear my very quiet inner voices.  I also need time to love myself and my partner — I’m pretty sure driving us at this pace hasn’t been positive for either of us.

So, for now, I’m seeking a little love and a little less go-go.

 

First Dates

il_570xN.670552775_2zbv

There’s always weirdness on the first date, whether it’s a literal first romantic date or (in my case) a professional one.  Some traditionalists call the “professional first date” an interview, but I think that verbiage fails to adequately reflect the chemistry and interpersonal magic that’s so crucial to a successful experience.

You plan for all the controllable stuff…you research the role, the company, LinkedIn, and reach out to shared connections.  You map your skills to the role requirements, and you isolate 3-5 stories that you plan to tell during the date.  You put on eyeliner (something I didn’t bother to do for many romantic dates) but you wear the neutral lipstick.  You wear the bra that makes your figure look awesome, and then you wear a modest shirt.

During all the preparations, you know there’s a mountain of things you can’t control during the professional date.  You understand that the first five minutes are crucial, and that you’ll receive your first buy (or rejection) sign in less than 90 seconds — and that it’s terribly difficult to reverse that first impression.

If it’s going well, you know you can relax.  Your laughs become more genuine.  You can spin out your stories with confidence, and the follow-on questions will be mostly friendly.  The research and the preparations have paid off…even the eyeliner was worth it.

If it’s going poorly, you start to rack your brain for the perfect thing to say to get the discussion on track.  Maybe this other story actually showcases your drive better….maybe if you speak more slowly, or use smaller words.  Start smiling.  Stop squinting.  Remove that damn plastic smile.  Don’t fidget.  Realize that this one might not end well, sigh internally, and resolve to try again.

Professional dating is very similar to the romantic kind.  Attitude matters, as does resilience….and sometimes, you just need to wrap up and move on.

 

 

All You Need Is Love

Love

Fair warning:  I’m going to get sappy here for a minute.  Skip this post if you dislike gushing posts about the power of friendship and the gift of gal pals.

In my early 20’s I really didn’t have many female friends.  I found that most women were overly competitive, critical, emotional, and difficult to please.  Perhaps I was also all of these things — but I felt like I was a simple girl who just wanted to tell the truth to her girlfriends without it coming back to haunt her.  Because I found very few of those women (with notable exceptions like my friend Shannon), I eschewed the company of women and spent most of my free time with male friends.

Fast forward to my near 40’s (gasp!) and my experience is completely different. I still have some amazing male friends, but my girl friends are spectacular and a complete blessing.  They listen, they tune in and help, they give great advice, and they’re drama free.  I don’t know what happened in the past 20 years to make us all grow up so much, but I’m so very happy it happened.

I notice the mission critical role of my female friends especially now, when I’m looking for my next role and seeking lots of career advice.  Not only is the advice I’m getting very useful, it’s also constructive and supportive.  I’m surrounded by so many strong, educated, successful and positive women — and I hope all of that passion and talent is rubbing off on me in the right way.

Those female friends are such a huge part of my life (you know who you are!) and they’re mentors, confidantes, playmates, fellow instigators, and (most importantly) friends.

The world would be a darker, less stylish, more rigid, colder, stodgier, and all around suckier place without those gals.  Thank you for being my friend, and for inspiring your families, co-workers, organizations…and me.

Peace out.

Moments of Grace

djtjrjsrt

Every once in a while there’s an ephemeral connection between two people.  A fundamental acknowledgement of the mutual challenges of life pass between two normally disjointed souls.  I call that experience a “Moment of Grace.”

Moments of grace happen too infrequently to rely on their presence in times of need, which may be why they seem so precious.  That moment when two people share a story, a laugh, a significant glance…and both understand the basic connection of the experience.  We might not ever get a chance to replicate that moment with the same person.  We may never meet again, but that connection binds us.

It’s these little things that hold us together, and that give others nuance and appeal.  No one is “all bad” or “all good” and we share so much together as part of the human connection.  These moments of grace can bring us together, despite everything that differentiates us.

Moments of grace make politics less important.  They put our focus back on people around us, and our responsibility to our country and kin.  These moments make career and ambition and economics – things that are often divisive – and make us realize that there’s a counterbalance to all out differences.

We should seek out our Moments of Grace.

 

 

 

Flow

1-yoga-meditation-5-tips-new-frequency-ftr

I’ve been waiting for the words to flow out of me, for them to arise from the space that was created in my life.  It hasn’t happened yet.

A fleeting idea passes through my mind;  an emotion fills my soul…the words do not yet form.  I put fingers to keyboard, testing the current paradigm and hoping for a breakthrough.  Only silence fills the space between me and the computer.  My hands lie dormant.

Perhaps silence is — in and of itself — something to communicate.  In a brain normally cluttered by facts and tasks and commitments, the lack of clutter makes me anxious.  I am not used to this space, this silence.  I distrust it, and I worry about when the flow of my words will return.

For now, there’s merely the flow of silence embracing me.  I’ll try to wait patiently.

 

Battle of Nature

cat_yowl

Mr Handsome, our fifteen year old curmudgeon cat, and I have been in a battle of wills for two weeks now.  As he’s gotten older and his arthritis has gotten worse, he’s become more restless at night, less willing to cuddle quietly with the humans while we slumber.  He’s developed a nasty habit of sitting in the middle of the bed – or on the floor in the bedroom – and howling at us until we get up and pay attention to him.

At first I was sympathetic — I have arthritis too, and I understand how difficult it is to get comfortable.  I hear his little kitty joints crack when he moves, and I watch how gingerly and clumsily he places his paws as he walks.  I know that walk – I do the human version of it most mornings.  I understand the pain that laying in one position can cause when you finally move.  These pains have turned me into a constant fidgeter, someone who can never sit still.

After several days of sleepless nights, I knew this pattern couldn’t continue.  Mr. Handsome has all day to sleep, and does not need to earn a paycheck to receive his cat food.  He delegates these pedestrian and exhausting tasks to us.  And yet I found my boss and coworkers do not understand a yowling cat as a reasonable excuse for exhaustion.  Cats are not babies, they explain.  I become painfully aware that a fifteen year old feline will not spontaneously mature and stop this behavior.

I’ve  begun sleep training my cat.  I use a spray bottle of water in lieu of swaddling and warm milk.  I try to be consistent – running for the spray bottle every time the yowling begins.  No matter how exhausted or busy I am – I can be found making a mad dash for the bottle.  My aim has improved, even in the dark.  I can hit his nose at a distance of 15 feet…I’ll aim for 20 feet by the end of the week.  If I want to do any better, I’m going to have to buy a better weapon than a re-used and cleaned Windex bottle.

I wonder if buying a better weapon is an admission of defeat.  I do not want to squirt my sore, aging cat.  I want to love him.  I also want to sleep regularly.

We’re making progress.  Last night he woke me up just twice.  I hope he does not learn to like water before I train the night time yowling out of him.

I tell myself that this battle of wills with a nearly indomitable cat is good training for management, as I yawn my way to work.

Making Your Own Bed

Wine_bed

We got a new bed last Friday – which was a big event in this household.

I’ve been sleeping on the same mattress at home since 1997, which is the year that Rana and I opted to replace the landlord-supplied twin bed we’d been sleeping on for two years with a quality mattress.  I’d recently been diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis, and our current strategy of “sleep on the tiny, droopy, dusty bed on the floor” wasn’t working so well.

I remember the day The New Bed arrived — it took up most of the usable space in our bedroom, and we needed to cram a bunch of additional furniture into the “spare room” down the hall (Rana’s office).  Making the bed fit was a complicated game of Tetris, made even more inscrutable due to the plethora of furniture we had to store (we’d snagged my grandparents’ furniture when my maternal grandmother died and my grandfather moved into assisted living…but we hadn’t yet earned enough money to afford a house deserving of the furniture).

Sleeping on The New Bed was heavenly – it didn’t creak when we moved.  It didn’t droop and it had an actual bed frame.  We no longer had to sleep on top of one another — entire nights passed when we did not even touch while sleeping.  I remember being somewhat sad about the vast space between Rana and me.  It now took effort to cuddle, whereas before it had been nearly impossible to escape touching.

Fast forward to 2016.  At some point in the past year, The New Bed had given up the ghost, and had become squishy and unsupportive.  We’ve both had some back issues that I began to attribute to the bed.  So – we ventured out to pick a new night steed; we ended up paying less than what Rana and I paid 19 years ago (and for much better quality).  Thank goodness for continued productivity improvements and cost pressures…

The new bed is wonderful, but it doesn’t yet contain the same full list of happy memories and years of experiences as The New Bed of years past.  I’m sad to lose an old friend, even if my back is quietly celebrating our progress.

 

Stepping Stool

IMG_2898

I’ve been on a hiatus from most aspects of my life except for work.  I’ve taken a break from cycling, from social gatherings, and from writing.  I don’t have the type of personality that can withstand long absences from any of these pastimes that feed my soul.  I’m not even sure when, or why, or how I decided to eschew my favorite activities in favor of work.  I now recognize the tremendous error of my ways and I’m making changes.

I often tell mentees and people I interview that “life is a three legged stool, comprised of professional accomplishment, family and social connection, and health.”  I explain that one cannot be unbalanced in any of the three legs, or the entire platform simply doesn’t work effectively.  These words roll off of my tongue and I know them to be true — and I take them not only as gospel, but also as a completely achievable task nearly unworthy of mentioning because it’s so obvious.

Obvious doesn’t mean easy.  My deep confession today is that I’ve slipped — my health “stool leg” has been off kilter for some time, and I’m desperately trying to get it back on track.  My “family and social connection” leg is a bit short as well.  I’ve managed to isolate myself of connections and endorphins, making my platform unstable and potentially unusable.

Fortunately there’s a fix.  I had my first pain-free bike ride in six months.  I nearly cried with humiliation-laced relief as I walked up a steep hill, but ultimately completed a meager 15 mile ride.  I have a long way to come back from this hiatus, but I have the determination to succeed.  I will never take pain-free cycling for granted again.

I’ve got three social gatherings this week with friends, and I’m gearing up to visit family in Ohio at the end of the month.  I have big plans for more visits with family and friends later this spring and summer, and I’m going to celebrate my 40th birthday in style in September.

Here’s to balance.  It might be easy to identify as a source of strength, but it’s sure hard to implement.